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Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America Hardcover – November 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Taibbi eviscerates Wall Street for what he considers frauds perpetrated on the American people over the last ten years. Deftly delving deeply into complicated financial history and lingo, Taibbi deftly lays the subject bare, rendering heretofore-dense subject matter simple without being simplistic. Blame for the recent mortgage collapse, commodities bubble, and tech bubble are laid at the feet of a relatively small number of bankers and traders who, in the author's opinion, act without fear of reciprocity from a U.S. government no longer representative of the American people. He begins by awarding the title "Biggest Asshole In The Universe" to former-Fed Chief Alan Greenspan, taking him to task for willfully or stupidly disemboweling what little regulation the financial markets may have had before his tenure. This theme resounds throughout, and Taibbi asserts that the collusion between Wall Street and the White House has effectively turned the United States into a massive casino, in which working Americans are regularly bilked out of their savings and homes while the wealthy are repeatedly rewarded for their graft. It's an important and worthy read, but not for the Randian disciple or Goldman-Sachs alum. (Nov.)
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*Starred Review* Rolling Stone contributing editor Taibbi delivers a blistering examination of the upheaval that has roiled the American economic system over the past several years. At the heart of the upheaval, he says, is a vein of greed running up and down the real-estate industry, from mortgage brokers who falsified customer loan applications to banks that parceled out mortgages to second and third parties to rating agencies that signed off on highly suspect loans. Taibbi saves a good deal of venom for former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, arguing that Greenspan’s philosophy of easy cash, limited government oversight of markets, and bailing out “too big to fail” financial institutions all fueled the recent economic meltdown. And Taibbi profiles a recently passed health-care bill severely compromised by an all-powerful insurance lobby. As critical as he is of the process—a process not likely to get fixed any time soon—he doesn’t seem to carry an agenda; instead, like any good investigative reporter, he mostly follows his nose. --Alan Moores
Top customer reviews
Mr. Taibbi takes to task newspapers; journalists; the Tea Party; Alan Greenspan; Ayn Rand; Presidents Reagan right through to and including Obama; Wall St. Ponzi schemes; the dot-com. and sub-prime mortgage bubbles; taxation and bailouts, the criminal fiascoes at AIG, Goldman "Sauron" Sachs, Morgan Stanley etc.; the 2008 inexplicable gasoline price hikes which had nothing to do with supply-and-demand; Florida's rocket dockets to deal with home foreclosures, and healthcare insurance cartels who are exempt from anti-trust laws. There's a lot of people to hate in this thing. If you don't step away from 'Griftopia' better informed and ticked off then there's a 99.9% probability you're one seriously dumb-as-dirt masochist.
Much like Pulitzer-Prizewinner-for-Beat-Reporting David Kay Johnson's excellent work ('Perfectly Legal,' 'Free Lunch,' 'The Fine Print',) Mr. Taibbi is a solid muckraking journalist who is smart, insatiably curious and knows how to explain issues in a clear, entertaining manner. Mr. Taibbi is so good, I'm going to be picking up his other works. It's a great way to become a better informed citizen and the ensuing anger will clean out the plaque buildup clogging your arteries.
The most devastating passage for me is the one where he explains what this country could have done with $13 trillion spent on bailouts: pay every mortgage in existence, and build house for every American who doesn't have one. He writes: "But we didn't do that, and we didn't spend money on anything else useful, either. Why? For a very good reason. Because we are no good anymore at building bridges and highways or coming up with brilliant innovations in energy or medicine... What are we good at? Robbing what's left." Devastating, and at the same time weirdly liberating. I would, after all, rather know the worst truth, than live in the fantasy USA we are being sold every day through our irresponsible media and callous politicians.
Taibbi's been compared to Michael Lewis, but I find this comparison plain lazy. Lewis writes about financial shenanigans with measured cynicism, and with a sort of appreciation for bankers who destroyed middle class of this country. Unlike him, Taibbi doesn't mince words, or tries to appear coolly above it all. He's, after all, as screwed up as is the rest of us.